When you register a domain, you are obliged to provide the domain registrar with contact information. Individuals are required to enter their name and address (no aliases are permitted) and companies are required to enter their company name and address.
This information is publicly available and can be viewed using domain whois lookup tools. This obviously raises security concerns for domain owners as no one wants their personal information published online.
Many domain owners are unaware that their personal information can be found so easily. It should be no surprise that many people who are aware disregard the rules suggested by ICANN and do not enter their real information.
To protect domain owners, many domain registrars offer a domain privacy service that protects their customers identities. If a domain is protected, their whois information will be replaced by the domain registrar's details. The registrar then acts as a forwarding service for anyone who wants to acquire that information.
Over the years many domain extensions have also introduced some privacy features in order to protect domainers.
How Much Does Domain Privacy Cost?
Most registrars charge between a couple of dollars to around $10 for domain name privacy. The domain privacy fee is always charged on a yearly basis.
For example, eNom charges $8 per year for their “ID Protect” feature, GoDaddy charges $7.99 per year, and NameCheap charge $2.88 for their “WhoisGuard” service.
There are some domain registrars, such as Hover, that include domain name privacy with all domain registrations by default. They charge $15 for domain name registrations. Many of their competitors charge $10 to $12 for domain names, but the total cost of a domain can rise to $20 when you add privacy. This makes Hover one of the cheapest domain registration companies online if you are looking to protect your identity online since domain privacy is built into their fee.
Be sure to look at the overall cost of registering domain names and adding domain name privacy for any domain registrar you are considering using.
Domain Privacy by Default
Over the years many top-level domains have introduced privacy features directly into standard domain registration rules.
For example, when you register a .EU domain, only your email address is publicly shared. The Greek domain extension .GR does not disclose any information about domain owners and the Icelandic domain extension .IS allows you to hide your address and phone number.
It tends to be localised top-level domain extensions that have added domain privacy features into default registrations. You will still need to purchase domain privacy for extensions such as .COM and .NET.
Do Not Use Enter Fake Contact Information
If you have spent time searching for domain names, you will have inevitably have looked up the contact information of registered domains that you were interested in owning and found that the domain owner had entered fake contact information.
This can be frustrating as it makes it almost impossible to contact the owner of the domain you want to purchase, but is there a method to their madness?
Something that many domainers rarely admit is that using fake whois contact information can be effective in hiding your identity online.
Despite this, I would discourage you all from doing it as it could cause many problems for you.
The contact information you enter when you register a domain is what legally binds you to the domain name. It is evidence that you registered the domain name and that you are the rightful owner. You will regret using fake contact information if you are ever drawn into a domain name dispute.
ICANN requires accredited registrars to save domain and contact information in a trust account so that in the event of a domain registrar going bankrupt, customers can get their domain names back. If your domain registration company goes bankrupt and your personal information is not associated with your domain, you may lose the domain name as there would be no evidence that you were the owner of the domain.
The main reason some domainers enter fake contact information for registered domains is to protect their identity, however the potential problems that can arise from using fake information is too great.
How Important is Domain Privacy?
There are risks to having your personal information displayed on the internet. As a website owner, you do not want any random person knowing where you live.
I have run discussion forums for years and as a forum owner you inevitably need to ban members from time to time; whether it be because of spam or because certain members are being aggressive and abusive to other forum members.
Members who are banned sometimes feel like they have been treated unfairly and look to get their own back on the forum and the forum owner. One of the most common threats that forum owners will see is from ex-members who have looked up the whois information of a domain and sent threatening emails and messages stating that they know where they live.
Most of these threats are harmless, but it is still concerning when a threat like that is made to the house where you live with your loved ones.
Adding privacy to your domain name will help protect sensitive information.
Unfortunately, paying for domain privacy is not a guarantee that someone can find out personal information about you. There are a lot of scare stories online about how how domain registrars and hosting companies have given out personal information to unauthorised parties.
Sometimes all it takes is a phone call from someone who was convincing on the telephone that they were the domain owner. Other times a simple legal letter is sufficient to scare a domain registrar company into passing on information they should not be passing on.
Thankfully, this type of incident is rare, so do not let it discourage you from purchasing privacy for your domain.
Domain name privacy remains the most efficient way of stopping spammers and other malicious parties from seeing your personal information.